As goes Maine, so goes . . .?

The Maine Senate voted last week to ask President Bush to pursue diplomacy rather than war with Iraq. In a vote along the sharpest of party lines, every Democrat favored the measure, and every Republican opposed it. It passed by a vote of 18 to 15.

The Maine House is expected to take up the proposal Tuesday. It could prove something of a New England bellwether, as liberal Vermonters have spoken of bringing a similar measure to the floor. Altogether, 63 U.S. cities, including Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vt., have supported such resolutions.

It's tempting to discern the influence of the liberal flatlanders who moved north. But New England is a traditional bastion of antiwar sentiment, from the War of 1812 through Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. As the Portland Press Herald noted, the War of 1812 little amused the Maine merchants, as it cut off their trade with Canada. Many at the time spoke of secession.

Rep. Thomas Reed of Maine resigned to protest the "imperialistic" Spanish American War. In the Vietnam era, Vermont's Sen. George Aiken recommended we should "declare victory and withdraw" -- none of which prevented New Englanders from serving wartime. Per capita, more Vermonters died in the Civil War than soldiers from any other union state.

-- Michael Powell

Thirty women entered a snow-blanketed Central Park in New York yesterday morning, shed their outerwear and lay down in formation to spell "No Bush" as a protest against a potential U.S. war with Iraq. Sixty-three U.S. cities have approved resolutions calling for diplomacy over war.